Do you have a rival? A nemesis? Someone that always gets under your skin? A person that elevates your blood pressure when they walk in the room? Rivalries are nothing new. You may remember a few famous ones. How about the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s? Or, Hamilton and Burr? Maybe Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan are more in your era. Perhaps it’s Apple vs Microsoft, or Nike and Adidas?
Think more about rivalries. Are they good, or are they bad? It’s funny, I’ve been taught both. Clearly, rivalries that end in death like Alexander Hamilton or injury like Nancy Kerrigan are horrible. But what about Apple and Microsoft? Common wisdom suggests that rivalries are good things. That this rival person or organization will drive us to greater achievement when we channel the competitive energy.
OK, I see the logic in that. But, there is a problem. Who’s side is God on? I mean, if God is for us – each of us – how does he choose between Alexander Hamilton or Aaron Burr? Who should win?
To answer that question, we need more direction. It is no mistake that 1 John 4 has one major theme: Love. Think about it. What happened when Jesus’ rivals challenged him? How did he respond? He loved them. You remember their response. They hated him more. In turn, he loved them more deeply.
This is the crazy part. Seriously, think about someone who hates you. It makes no sense to love them back. None! Unless, of course, you have the heart of Jesus. You see, Jesus did not love them back for who they are, but for who they might become. He knew that giving his love would open up the possibility – no matter how unlikely – that they would also find love in their hearts. That they would live. For Jesus, that is all that mattered. He loved them so deeply, in fact, that he gave up everything he had – his very life – so that they might live (1 John 4:10).
So, what am I to do with my rivalries? Love them. Unconditionally. Lay down my sword and take up my cross so that they too might live wholly, and holy.